Denver Nuggets vs Philadelphia 76ers: Lineups, preview & prediction 3/26/18

Fresh from clinching their first playoff spot in six years, the 76ers are looking to keep the good times rolling by beating the Denver Nuggets.

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For five-plus seasons, the 76ers have told their fan base to “trust the process” as former general manager Sam Hinkie cratered the team earlier this decade and built around high first-round draft picks while swapping second-round ones in a frenzy to help clear cap space and rebuild with youth.

Entering this season, the 76ers (42-30) had lost 301 games in the  past five campaigns, and Hinkie was pushed out in 2016, but there were flashes of potential in 2016/17 as they “improved” to 28-54 after winning 47 games the previous three seasons combined.

With rookie Ben Simmons, the top overall pick in the 2016 draft, fully healthy after sitting out last season with a foot injury and Joel Embiid, the third overall pick in 2014 also 100 percent, Philadelphia finally showed that “the process” was indeed worth it.

They reached another milestone Saturday night with their 120-108 victory over Minnesota, guaranteeing their first winning record in a non-lockout season since going 43-39 in 2004/05. With Indiana then beating the Heat on Sunday, Philadelphia’s postseason berth was confirmed.

Simmons recorded his tenth triple-double with 15 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds against the Timberwolves, while Embiid added 19 points as five players reached double figures for Philadelphia, who blew open the game with a 39-19 third quarter and won their sixth straight game.

While the 76ers are making postseason plans, the Nuggets (40-33) are scrapping for the final spot in the Western Conference as they sit 1.5 games behind Utah for the eighth spot. Denver improved to 2-2 on their crucial seven-game road swing after a 108-100 victory at Washington on Saturday night.

Nikola Jokic scored 25 points while Jamal Murray and Will Barton combined to hit ten 3-pointers and score 48 points, with Barton scoring 14 of his 23 in the fourth quarter, as the Nuggets won a 3-point shooting battle by hitting 17 of 34 from beyond the arc to exceed Washington’s 14 of 28 from deep. 

This road trip, however, turns brutal for the Nuggets as they also play at East-leading Toronto and Oklahoma City in the final two legs before returning home to face Milwaukee next Sunday.

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